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2008-01-24

BISD superintendent receives vote of confidence

By David Arny

The Bandera Independent School District’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved an extension of Superintendent Dr. Kevin Dyes’ contract at the Tuesday, Jan. 15 meeting. The decision followed a closed conference among board members which lasted slightly more than two hours. Dyes will continue to serve at the helm of the BISD administration through the 2010-2011 school year, at which time his contract is up for renewal.
The trustees’ vote of confidence in the superintendent’s job performance comes at a time when a number of local parents have a less supportive view of his management style. They also vehemently oppose district policy decisions which they lay at the door of Dyes.

Chief among their complaints is the recent replacement of several BISD school administrators and faculty members and a return to an eight-period school day after using the four-period per day, so-called “block schedule,” for many years.
In addition, according to one of the grievances listed on a flyer handed out to BISD trustees prior to their closed-door deliberations, “Dr. Dyes has not shown an ability to work with parents who raise concerns.” The flyer was endorsed by 100 Bandera County residents, including current students and former district employees.

Concerns have run the gamut from what is perceived as harsh penalties for pupils who have their cell phones out in class ($15 fine) to an insufficient amount of time allotted for lunch period (30 minutes) to an alleged lowering of academic standards at Bandera High School to allow the district to meet ratings “artificial” requirements mandated by state lawmakers and the Texas Education Association (TEA).

During the Citizens Comments segment of the school board meetings, a number of parents have expressed these and other complaints - for the most part, in an orderly, respectful way - and have shown no sign of abandoning their opposition to current BISD policy changes.

In a recent Courier interview, Dyes went over some of the decisions that have displeased a segment of Bandera County students and parents. He also spoke candidly about what he sees as his role as superintendent of BISD.

“I have a lot of confidence in the instructors and faculty members of our schools,” said Dyes. “When a parent has a grievance against a teacher, there are procedures in place to deal with that grievance. Ideally, the parent can request a meeting with the instructor and, hopefully, resolve the issue. If he or she isn’t comfortable talking to that individual, a conference with the principal should be requested. The principal needs to make the final decision on campus issues. For me to contact that teacher and say, ‘What is this about?’ would undermine the principal’s authority and tell him I don’t have confidence in his ability to do the job. The chain of command needs to be honored, and that’s been mandated by the board of trustees.”

Asked about friction caused among students and parents due to adoption of the new class schedule, Dyes said he understood that “some changes are tough,” but believed “daily instruction is critical.” He contrasted the old schedule with the one introduced at the beginning of the 2007-2008 school year. “Especially with math and science courses, it’s much better for the student and instructor to meet daily. Every other day just isn’t enough,” he said.

The block timetable allowed most BHS students time to do homework during the last segment of each period. With the new class schedule, high schoolers suddenly found themselves bringing home class assignments nightly.

“An important part of my job is preparing students for college,” said Dyes. “Freshmen students at colleges and universities who take even average course loads often find themselves overwhelmed by homework. I believe students - especially high school juniors and seniors - must be accustomed to doing regular homework assignments. That way, the transition from high school to college won’t be such a shock for them.”
Perhaps the most disturbing charge made by some individuals at recent school board meetings is that the administration is lowering standards so graduation rates, at least on paper, would appear to be improving.

While Dyes acknowledged that requirements for students’ advancement from one high school grade to the next had been relaxed slightly, he pointed out prerequisites for graduation had not changed and defended the attempt to reduce the number of students held back.

“When you’ve got a student who’s struggling to earn the credits they need to move on to the next grade level, and you hold them back because they lack one or two credits, you’re basically confirming their fears that they just might not be smart enough to ever graduate from high school,” said Dyes.

“They still need the same number of credits to graduate and the required scores on the TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) or TAAS (Texas Assessment of Academic Skills) tests remain the same for receiving a Texas high school diploma. There’s an added emphasis on helping these students advance without adding the stigma of not advancing with their classmates, unless it’s absolutely necessary.”

Dyes noted that summer school classes at BISD, which assist this type of student, had been $75 per course in the past. The classes are now available free of charge.

“We need to ensure all kids are held to high standards,” Dyes
said. “And I’ve been to (schools) where extra effort has paid off.”
The native Texan motioned to a small wooden plaque on his office desk which reads, “How does this benefit BISD?”

“That’s my only real consideration when a decision needs to be made. This really isn’t about me,” he said.